Recently, the LSAC revealed the long-awaited decision to begin administering the LSAT digitally. This announcement marks a monumental time in the LSAT’s history. And the new test format will affect us all, probably in unexpected ways. But, there’s no need to worry. Let’s just review what we know about the digital LSAT so far.
The March and June 2019 LSATs will be the traditional, pencil and paper format: nothing about them will change. However, the LSAC will give the July 2019 LSAT in both traditional and digital formats. On that test date, half of the students registered for the exam will receive the traditional test, and the other half will be the first to receive the digital LSAT pilot test.
As the students won’t know which format of the test they will take until they get into the test room, the LSAC is offering an altered score cancellation policy for this test only. Students will have the opportunity to see their scores before having the option to cancel. If you do choose to cancel your July 2019 score, you’ll have the chance to retake the exam on a later date, free of charge.
From the September 2019 LSAT onward, all students taking the LSAT will use the digital format.
The questions, sections, and problems on the LSAT will all be the same on the digital LSAT. The only difference will be that the LSAC will administer the test on tablets instead of in traditional paper test booklets. Students will get scratch paper for each section and a stylus to use with the tablet. The stylus will also have a pen built into it so that students can use it on the scratch paper. Consequently, you can’t bring your own pens or pencils.
The Logical Reasoning section will experience the least change. For that section, I would not expect to have trouble with the transition. Each question appears in its entirety on the left side of the screen with the answer choices on the right. Using the stylus, you can quickly highlight parts of the question in 3 different colors, underline, and mark out incorrect answers. If you are unsure of an answer, you can flag it and come back later.
The Reading Comp section won’t change too much either. In this section, the right side of the screen holds the entire question, while the left side presents the complete passage. Unfortunately, you do have to scroll through the passage since it can’t all show on the screen at the same time, but this shouldn’t be too much trouble. As in the LR section, you can easily highlight, underline, eliminate answers, and flag questions to come back to.
The section worrying everyone the most is Logic Games. Since we’re all used to diagramming with pencil and paper in this section, the transition to the digital LSAT for this section will require some adjustments. For each question, the entire game shows up on the left side of the screen, and each individual question appears on the right side. So, in order to diagram the games, you must use the pen part of the stylus on the scratch paper and move back and forth between the paper and the tablet to answer each question.
The best news about the advent of the digital LSAT is that it brings about the much-desired elimination of the writing portion of the test. So, instead of spending 35 excruciating minutes at the end of the test writing a bunch of nothing, you can now do the writing portion online. Also, you only have to complete the writing sample once. How this change will affect the significance of this previously unimportant part of the test is yet to be determined.
The digital LSAT will use the Microsoft Surface Go tablet with an 8.3125” x 5.5” screen. The tablet each student will receive will come with a stylus. Students can adjust the text on the tablet from 8-point to 27-point font. The screen also has customizable features such as:
The tablet also has a stand that can tilt the screen up, or students can let it sit flat on the desk.
For the most part, studying for the new, digital LSAT will be the same. You still have to learn the logic, how to approach the sections, and how to answer the different question types. So, in my opinion, nothing will change about the best way to study for the test.
However, at some point during your preparation, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the new digital LSAT format and the process of answering questions on a tablet. You can access LSAC’s own free digital LSAT tutorial to do so.
Also, while studying logic games, you must practice diagramming on a piece of scratch paper. This step will probably be the most significant transition.
This transition to the digital LSAT will likely have some unforeseen consequences. But it should also be beneficial in some ways. So, if you hate technology and don’t want to take the LSAT on a tablet, start studying now and sign up for the June test. You can give yourself the best chance at getting the LSAT score you want by using an LSAT prep course. Or, brace yourself for the digital LSAT, because it’s almost here. And when it arrives, it’s not going anywhere.
But no matter which test version you take, you can get the advice and information you need to maximize your score by signing up for my free LSAT newsletter.
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John Wilson Booth grew up in Alabama and attended the University of Alabama. He moved to Salt Lake City after graduation and began studying for the LSAT. His cold diagnostic score was a 154 and he self-studied to a 171. Now, he works as a writer as he decides which law school to attend.
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